What do you write about on the first day of August? Dog days? Deer ticks? Gardens that have been half devoured by young-of-the-year deer? Have we reached the pinnacle of summer and are we now sliding into the misty valleys of fall?
You could say that, but I think we've still got a lot of space before the first snowflake hits the ground up here in the "near-north" where cool Canadian winds are still constrained north of the border.
The first and only cutting of upland hay is occurring around here as this column is written. Fresh, green round bales are sitting about the countryside waiting to be picked up and hauled to a hay warehouse somewhere.
My generation, who grew up on farms, made small hay bales that physically needed to be transported from the field and stacked high in the upper stories of barns. The process made for sunburned and scratched forearms and itchy chaff down the neck. But, there was a certain pride one derived from seeing a neatly stacked flat rack full of bales as it drifted across the field on its way to a waiting hay loft.
It felt even better when the field was clean of windrows. Only a fourth crop of alfalfa might still be coming in August.
By this time in early August a farmer knew if he would reap a corn or bean crop or not. Corn stood high and tasseled and green in August. Soy bean rows were full and void of any volunteer corn or weeds due to the efforts of those of us who walked row upon row in the baking summer sun.
The only thing that could hurt the crop now would be a hailstorm, and those storms did occur from time to time, shredding corn stalks to splinters and squashing a bean field flat. Such was the life of living on the edge of the weather on the farm.
My potato bug crop is starting to dwindle after they made a valiant effort to eat every leaf on the plant. My wife and I have spent a number of hours this summer husbanding those red and russet potatoes. Yes, you may say that you can buy them cheap at the grocery store, but what fun is that? I'd rather be battling the bugs to see who comes out on top.
And, is there anything better than new pea and new potato soup? No, there is not. You might just as well come out and say that the finest restaurants could not serve up a meal as tasty.
I hate to say it, but the first of August also means that kids are beginning to eye the new school year. They have seen their parents secretly hiding school items that they will be needing in a few weeks.
I always had the feeling that a bit was about to be placed in my mouth when my mother would come home from town toting a couple of pair of new jeans and a new shirt or two. There were thoughts of who might be my teacher for the coming year. Gad, I hoped I didn't get a certain him or her because I knew I would never pass the class if they were my selected educator. I could almost hear that first classroom bell ringing about this time of year.
You might also notice that advertisements around Aug. 1 are more pitched toward hunting than they are fishing. Ads for boats and motors are starting to take a back seat to ads for camouflage ground blinds or insulated hunting coats or deer rifles. Even though some of the best of the fishing season is yet to come, sports people are changing their thought processes to deer stands and buck scent.
It won't be long and the ruffed grouse season will be upon us and pheasant hunters are beginning to check the road counts out in South Dakota. They know that August is here.
So, I'm all a-twitter this time of year with the thought of a new season on the doorstep. I love the smell and the color that will be here as soon as we discard the month of August and move on to better things.
Cool, crisp nights; ripe apples dangling from tree branches; mist rising from the cooling lakes and rivers. These are good things, but we need to move through August to get there. We begin the process this week.
See you next time. Okay?